The Long Goodbye
In a fit of unprecedented motivation and unrepentant purging, I finally disposed of my pathology tomes. These unwieldy, oversized behemoths, often two volume sets spanning 1200-1300 pages apiece, have been crowding out the less noteworthy members of my literary cache. While 800 pages of breast pathology provides decent camouflage for the cotton candy covers of mindless chick lit, an irony not lost on fellow Candace Bushnell aficionados, I still haven’t cracked its foreboding black cover since ’03. Once proudly displayed and alphabetized by organ system (“breast before prostate and do not remonstrate”), the books provided solace, not to mention that they looked pretty damn impressive. Robbin’s Pathology of Basic Disease had my back as I intoned Goodnight Moon for the 32nd time in a single morning. After my academic medical practice vaporized with motherhood, three shelves of neatly apposed book spines paid testament to the former me. Then I started to make wine. I embraced enology with such ferocity that the pathology collection was deposed from the top of the bookshelf pecking order. The wine books needed space to breathe, man. Over time the most esoteric stuff (900 pages of soft tissue tumors, anyone?) got demoted to the bottom, stuffed behind cabinet doors, hidden from view. I had half-forgotten they were there. Their spines faced inwards now, books piled on their sides, crammed beside Snapfish photo books documenting first baths, first haircuts, first firsts. On the verge of a permanent relocation to Nor Cal, I had to declare their fate: incur a monthly fee as they languished in a Sonoma storage unit or set them free. Since I’m accustomed to bopping between Nor Cal and SoCal, I hoard more junk than I ought. There’s always extra room somewhere, so I don’t get existential and weepy about throwing inanimate things away. I simply relocate them to another closet. But the pathology textbook collection evinced an emotional vice grip, like a satellite’s gravitational pull (maybe because each book weighed half as much as one). Finally dispensing with those unread books would free me to pursue my dream. For 38 years I’d been plagued by guilt and haunted by parental expectations, careening down a career path that wasn’t my own. Dump the books and Bruliam would be my “real job.” All I needed was reinforcement from San Diego Recycling and Waste Management (see we’re only allotted one blue recycling can, and it was already full).
The books were still in great condition so I called up my alma mater, the UCSD Department of Pathology, to inquire if the current swath of interns and residents wanted free stuff. The wary receptionist asked “exactly how old are they?” OK gift horse, say aaaahhhh. Defiantly, I threatened to resell the texts online instead. After I hung up, I plugged the ISBN numbers into Amazon’s book resale engine. Many weren’t being accepted anymore, and the residua tallied up to a $6 credit. Geez, seven years out from residency, and I’m already expired.
Outside of Amazon, one of the books, an elaborately illustrated two volume cytology set, still goes for over $300 used. I could have made a few bucks on eBay, I suppose. But it seemed less gauche to donate them back to the current UCSD residents, despite the Arctic reception from admin. I’m hopeful the books will find a new home, getting the TLC they deserve. When I was a resident, I liked having so many textbooks at my disposal. I’d hunker down with a glass of pinot and do some reading.